The 357 secrets to happiness

Barney Zwartz on what having 357 tabs open on the computer might reveal about the basic human desire for security.

“Help!” The anguished yelp brought me and my son scurrying to my wife at her computer, where a catastrophe had unfolded: she had accidentally closed her computer browser. “No problem,” my son said, sitting down at the keyboard. Then his jaw dropped. “357! You had 357 pages open.” Yes, and she wanted them all back.

Why did she need them all? So she could find them if she wanted them. I pointed out that, actually, she couldn’t. At 10 seconds to turn to each page and let it load, it would take up to an hour to find any website, even if she remembered it. It might take 30 seconds with a new Google search.

I pondered this. Generally she seems pretty sane, even allowing for the fact that she married me. I concluded that it has something to do with security – she feels safe knowing that what she has opened and found valuable is still there, even if she never goes back to it.

And security in this sense of comfort and certainty is a very basic human desire, in all sorts of arenas of life, whether it be the security of knowing we can pay our mortgage or have enough money for a comfortable old age, or trusting in friends, down to knowing that these recipes are reliable or that Coonawarra reds are invariably good.

But of course all forms of human security are fallible. As a Christian, I believe the only ultimate form of security is God’s promises – particularly that he will work all things for the good of those who love him. I am not promised ease and comfort, absence of suffering or grief, but I am promised that nothing can separate me from the love of God.